The Celtic Revival: Afterglow (10)
What then shall we say of that happiness to come which is promised to the saints, which we consider to be nothing else but the pure and unmediated contemplation of the Divine Essence itself?
- Eriugena, Periphyseon, Irish, 9th century
As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness;
I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.
- Psalm 17.15
The Celtic Revival began, we might say, with Patrick’s vision of Christ, bright as the sun:
But in the midst of this I saw the sun
begin to rise in heaven. When I’d begun
again to shout, “Helias!” with all my might,
the sun descended in its brilliant light
and took away the weight from me. Then I
believed that it was Jesus Christ Who my
deliverance had achieved, and that it was
the Spirit of the living God Who caused
me thus to cry and cried in me.
Patrick came to see that the great hope of the believer lies beyond this worldly framework, in the heavenly places in Christ, where the glory of God radiates from His face, and we may know fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore (2 Cor. 4.6; Ps. 16.11). A day is coming, every Christian knows, when we will see Jesus as He is; we will be like Him, and will know His radiant presence without hindrance or interruption – pure and unmediated – forever (1 Jn. 3.1-3).
That vision of Christ and the coming day of glory sustained believers throughout the four centuries of the Celtic Revival, and it remained even in the afterglow, as we see in this excerpt from Eriugena.
But while this is, indeed, a great happiness to come, it is our privilege to enter this great hope and happiness here and now, day by day. Like Paul, we can see the glory of God in the face of Jesus and know the transforming power of that glory to sustain and strengthen us every day. Our lives have been hidden with Christ in God, and we are seated with Him in heavenly places (Col. 3.3; Eph. 2.6). What’s more, we have the Word of God, revealing the glory of Jesus on every page (Jn. 5.39).
We do not have to guess about the face of Jesus, what it may be like, or how glorious it may be. The Scriptures provide abundant descriptions of the Lord, exalted in glory (cf. Rev. 1.9-20). As we meditate on these descriptions, and set the Lord before us throughout the day, His face becomes increasingly vivid and His glory real and transforming.
We do not lack ample portraiture to bring us before the glorious face of Jesus Christ. Rather, we lack the will to engage in meditation. Meditating on the beauty of the Lord is not one of the “one things” most of us practice each day as though our hope and joy depended on it (Ps. 27.4).
Consider how long and hard worldly people think about the riches they hope to gain, the children they will bring into the world, the achievements they will realize through their work, the legacy they will leave behind. Visions of this hoped-for boon fill the minds of worldly people by day and occupy their dreams at night. They read books, articles, newsletters, and websites to sharpen their vision and guide them in realizing it. They arrange all their activities to devote maximum time and effort toward the realization of that for which they earnestly long, and which fills their minds throughout the day. They talk eagerly about their goals, dreams, and attainments, and they plan and schedule, day by day, to realize as much of their vision and hope as they can.
Worldly people put Christians to shame by their vision and zeal. We are invited to fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore in the sun-bright presence of our Lord, under His gaze, in the contemplation of His face. Yet do we find in the vision of Jesus as much motivation and pleasure as our worldly friends do in their fleeting visions and dreams?
We know very little of the glory of Jesus’ face in the present, and this deprives us of anything more than the barest flicker of excitement as we consider meeting Him hereafter. Our minds are instead filled with fleeting pleasures, while we forfeit that which can never fade, never fail to satisfy, and never be taken away from us, and devote our best thoughts to lesser things.
The question is not whether we will meditate – whether we will allow our minds to focus on some great, hoped-for thing, and dwell there. The question is whether we will meditate on Him Who alone can bring us into fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore. For in the vision of Jesus we find hope and transforming grace to realize the presence, promise, and power of His Kingdom.
Psalm 27.4-6 (Joanna: Immortal, Invisible God Only Wise)
One thing we request but to dwell with You, Lord.
Your beauty to test and to think on Your Word.
In trouble You hide us secure in Your grace;
No foe may o’erride us: We sing of Your praise!
Lord, on that great coming day, let me not be found in shame before the face of God, but let me gaze upon Your beauty day by day, so that I delight in You more and more. Today, Lord, help me to…
Learn to meditate
Meditation comes naturally to us because our minds are always active and engaged with some thought or image.
But focused meditation requires time and effort. Having a set of exercises to guide you can both improve your meditation and help to focus your thoughts throughout the rest of the day on those images and visions that can keep you oriented toward the Lord. Our book Be Thou My Vision provides 28 exercises to help you focus more clearly and consistently on the Lord, and to enter His presence with greater joy. You can order a copy by clicking here. And when you order a copy of Be Thou My Vision, we’ll also send you Bricks and Rungs: Poems on Calling at no additional charge.
Thanks to those of you whom God has moved and enabled to support our work with your gifts. It’s easy to give to The Fellowship of Ailbe, and all gifts are, of course, tax-deductible. You can click here to donate onlinethrough credit card or PayPal, or send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 19 Tyler Dr., Essex Junction, VT 05452.
T. M. Moore, Principal
All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Happiness Now and to Come
- T.M. Moore
- October 16, 2018
This vision will never fail to bring you joy.
The Celtic Revival: Afterglow (10)
T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.